The Role of Exercise in Sustaining Weight Loss Beyond Medication

For nearly a year, the discourse surrounding GLP-1 weight loss drugs such as Wegovy, Zepbound and Saxenda has been ongoing, with a central focus on what happens when patients stop using the meds. There’s been a prevailing concern: Can weight loss be maintained once these medications are discontinued? A recent Danish study, spearheaded by Professor Signe Sørensen Torekov and her team from the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Copenhagen and Hvidovre Hospital, sheds crucial light on this matter.

GLP-1 weight loss drugs such as Wegovy have undoubtedly been instrumental in assisting users in shedding excess weight, especially in an era where obesity rates continue to rise. However, the apprehension lies in the aftermath of cessation — the fear of weight regain looms large. But Torekov’s study challenges this assumption. He says,

It is actually possible to stop taking the medication without large weight regain, if you follow a structured exercise regime. Our study offers new hope, as we have shown that the majority of those who take weight loss medication and exercise regularly are able to maintain the beneficial effects a year after treatment termination.

The study, led by Postdoc Simon Birk Kjær Jensen, scrutinized the effects following treatment for obesity, providing valuable insights into the long-term outcomes of these medications. Jensen says,

Even though medical treatment for obesity is effective, people who stop taking the drugs have difficulties maintaining the beneficial effects. Within a year, they will typically have gained more than two thirds of the lost weight. However, our study shows that people who exercise during treatment do not have the same propensity to put on weight post treatment.

Two hours of exercise a week is enough

The study’s methodology included four groups: a placebo group, a group receiving Saxenda (liraglutide 3 mg), an exercise-only group, and a group receiving Saxenda while also exercising regularly. The results underscored the significance of exercise, revealing that just two hours of exercise a week, coupled with medication or even on its own, significantly contributed to maintaining the benefits of treatment.

Jensen explains,

All it takes is two hours of exercise a week that gets the heart rate up and makes you pant. And it may differ from one person to the next. For people with severe obesity and low initial fitness level, a brisk walk may be sufficient, whereas people with higher fitness level may have to practise running or cycling, e.g. interval spinning.

Torekov emphasizes, “We now have an effective drug for obesity, but it’s imperative to combine medical treatment with regular physical exercise.” The study indicates that exercise not only aids in weight maintenance but also enhances overall quality of life, as evidenced by improved energy levels and mental well-being among participants in the exercise groups.

The implications of this study are profound, suggesting a paradigm shift in the approach to obesity treatment. Torekov and Jensen even advocate for the integration of exercise recommendations into prescriptions for weight loss drugs.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “With regular exercise, medical weight loss treatment does not have to be permanent,”, 2/20/24
Source: “Healthy weight loss maintenance with exercise…,”, 2/19/24
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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
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Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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